Evolution of Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) – Part 6 – What Comes Next? 

As am I typing these words I am listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and this post’s title was inspired by the song from the play, “What Comes Next” by Jonathan Groff, hence the title! The King George scenes within Hamilton are some of my favorites.

I spend a lot of time looking to the future so that our team can be out ahead of any trends that are impacting our clients. One of the “hottest” topics right now (late 2022) is how the Internet of Things, Big Data and Machine Learning are going to impact Facility and Asset Management. Some are even predicting that FCAs will become obsolete as computers will send you and email when it is time to replace a roof, or boiler.

First off, I have no doubt that over time we are going to see major disruption to the facility sector from these emerging technologies. However, I am skeptical about how fast the changes are going to occur.

I was recently at a presentation where the speaker suggested that by 2030 most organizations would be using Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) as their standard practice. I think that too many organizations are still struggling to get a handle on preventative vs. reactive maintenance, that it is a big jump to go straight to CBM.

We are in a weird stage of technological advancement where the amount of data that we can generate and store far outweighs our ability to gain insights from it. I am fairly confident that data scientist will be one of the top career opportunities in the coming decades. However, I am not sure how quickly they are going to embed themselves within facilities and physical plant teams. Without the ability to separate the “wheat from the chaff”, the overwhelming quantity of data that can be generated from sensors within individual pieces of equipment will stifle any innovation across the industry.

Many (if not most) facilities teams are still struggling to get an accurate equipment inventory to support their current maintenance practices. To think that there will be a quantum leap in eight years to fully automated programs driven by machine learning, sensors and data scientists is a long way to go in a short period of time.

I remember hearing 5 years ago that we would have ubiquitous self-driving cars within 5 years. We are not even close to that reality as of yet. While I do believe that this will be our reality at some point in the future, I do think it is further off than predicted. In my opinion, the same can be said for these emerging technologies for facility and asset management. I could be wrong and only time will tell.

Despite my skepticism for the timing, I do think that facility management is going to be disrupted at some point in the future. We are working with many of our client organizations to find ways to better use the data that they have, and to try to find ways to get new (useful) data.

When the change will come and how fast, still remains an unknown. That being said, each organization should be looking for ways to better understand these technologies and look for ways to leverage them at the right time and for the right processes so that they are not left behind when the wave comes.

The most exciting part of looking to the future is that it is not written yet and there is only one way to find out and that is to live it!

 

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Evolution of Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) – Part 5 – What’s Your Story Morning Glory

No matter what type of organization you are a part of, you are going to have to make a business case for funding, whether that is to just maintain the current funding that you are getting, or ideally to advocate for an increase.

The key thing to remember is in most cases, the people that you are speaking to are not facilities folks. They are educators, medical professionals, business or finance experts. Too much data can easily either overwhelm them or cause them to lose interest. That is why we have been working with our clients to start building stories, informed by their data as part of their upward reporting and presentations.

If you have never read it, I would highly recommend the book Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. Although it is focused on marketing and sales, it can add a lot of value for anyone who is advocating for funding either within their organization or to an outside funding body. I am not going to get into the principles of the book here (that’s why you should read it), but it does provide an excellent structure for telling compelling stories and getting your message across.

Before you start to craft your story, you really need to understand what the underlying narrative or intent of the story (presentation) is going to be. With regards to facility and infrastructure asset management, there are really three main narratives that we see clients telling:

  1. This is where we are and these are the bad things that are going to happen if we continue on the way we are going;
  2. This is where we are and this is how much worse it would be if we hadn’t done what we have over the past years;
  3. Thank you for the additional funding you provided, here is what we did with it, can we have some more please!

It is also critical that you know your audience and what is important to them. If you do have technical people on your Board or as Trustees, then you can likely go deeper into the data. If you are talking to pure financial people, you may want to talk dollars instead of Facility Condition Index. End users (educators, medical professionals, etc.) are better off focusing on the risk to interruption of the core services offered in the building.

Focus on what is important to your audience and show both the risks of not taking action, as well as the benefits if you do take action. Wherever possible utilize their terminology and quote strategic plans or goals. You want them to recognize their work in what you are requesting. Use the data to back-up both the potential risks you are trying to avoid, and the benefits that you want to achieve.

Many of us are highly technical professionals and therefore the concept of story at first may seem a bit “fluffy” for some. The fact is that more and more organizations are getting greater traction in using the principles of story, backed up by consistent and defensible data, to further their AM programs. Give it a try!

 

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Evolution of Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) – Part 4 – Taking a Longer-Term View

As we get into the mid-to-late 2010s, many clients were making informed decisions based on FCAs (as well as Energy Audit, Accessibility, etc. reports). Using mostly 5-year projections of capital renewal needs, clients started making internal (within their organizations) and external (Federal, State/Provincial Governments) business cases for additional funding.

When all you have is a 5-year projection of need, as each year passes your forecasting horizon is reduced. Typically, FCAs are updated every five years. By the time a client updates their FCAs they would not have any future picture of their needs.

One of the foundational principles of facility asset management is that each year there are going to be new items that require attention. In one instance, one of our clients had made a commitment to their board to cut their 5-Year Facility Condition Index (FCI) in half based on funding 50% of their initial 5-year need. The challenge was that over the course of the 5 years of the program, millions of dollars of renewal need rolled into the 5-Year planning horizon.

At the end of the 5-year program the FCI had increased. The client had to go back to their Board “hat in hand” to explain the increase in CI and focus on how the program they implemented had made things better than they would have been, but had not resulted in an overall improvement after 5-years and millions of dollars of additional funding.

Once you start to take a longer-term view of needs, many organizations will have to settle for a “Less Worse” approach in the short term. At the end of the day it may not feel like a compelling argument. However, it is critical to set clear and achievable expectations with your stakeholder, especially for any new approach to your renewal program.

In order to provide a longer-term view of renewal need, the FCA industry had to start to abandon the limited forecast period. Instead, we started to provide a complete, detailed element-level inventory of buildings (at Uniformat II Level 3/4 as opposed to Level 1/2, which was the first step in the evolution). In having an inventory, with dates of construction/installation, estimated costs and expected useful lives, clients could develop longer-term forecasts of renewal need. As such, FCA data no longer “got stale” so quickly.

As the industry started to look to longer term forecasts one new area that became critical was the idea of cyclical renewals. For example if you do a 20-year forecast of renewal need you should consider multiple replacements of some elements (those that have an EUL less than 20 years). Making sure that you “accounted for” these multiple replacements is critical to more accurate forecasting and more trust worthy data.

At this point, we have seen many clients start to explore the integration of capital and maintenance planning. As a result, more and more organizations are starting to gather equipment-level inventory (as opposed to element-level that is included in a typical FCA). We will leave this part of the story for another blog series.

In theory, with a detailed inventory of building, and using cyclical renewals you can project an unlimited forecast of renewal needs. We have seen several clients that have wanted 50 to 100 year projections of need. These longer term forecasts would not have been possible years before. Through their FCAs, clients now had a complete dataset for their buildings in terms of capital renewal forecasting long into the future.

Armed with a complete dataset that can provide a longer-term planning capability, we have started to shift the focus from the data, to the story that you tell, informed by your data. That story will have to wait until our next post.

 

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Evolution of Facility Condition Assessments (FCAs) – Part 3 – The Emergence of the Professional Assessor

Over the years, most FCAs were completed by design, project management and/or construction professionals “on the side”. The work was done on a part time basis either to fill in gaps in workload for core services, or to try to secure downstream work associated with the actual renewal projects.

 

As mentioned in my previous post, for teams that were primarily focused on assessments, staff often turned over frequently. There were two main types of assessors. Young, recent graduates that wanted to give FCAs a try. The second group was former designers that wanted to do something different later in their careers. In both cases, the tenure of these staff was somewhat limited. Most new grads lost interest in FCAs after a couple of years, again because all we were doing was pushing out reports. The more senior staff were closing in on retirement, so their time frame was shorter. 

 

In the early 2010s, as the value and meaning of FCAs became greater as a result of clients moving from a report focus to a data focus, we started to see the emergence of the professional assessor. We were able to keep staff engaged for a lot longer and people started to see Professional Assessor as a third option for their career.

 

As clients were looking to rely on the data provided, firms were able to take advantage of professional assessors who were sticking around longer, getting better and more efficient at collecting data.

 

To be completely honest, when I founded Roth IAMS in 2014, I had assumed that if we were lucky in 10 to 15 years, we would be able to build a firm of 20 to 25 people. One of the main reasons behind this assumption was the difficulty we had historically in retaining staff beyond a couple of years. We were in a constant cycle of hiring, training, rehiring and retraining. Thankfully we were able to break that cycle and we were able to help our clients and staff find meaning in the process and the results. After less than nine years we have been able to assemble a team of nearly 100 people that come to work everyday to collect data on existing buildings that will help clients improve their buildings for the benefits of the users.

 

These two simultaneous changes reinforced each other to drive further change to the industry. A more experienced pool of consultants was available increasing the quality, consistency and defensibility of the data provided, making it even more useful for prioritized capital planning.

 

The higher level of trust that our clients felt in the data provided by professional assessors added rocket fuel to the spark that came when the sector made the shift away from reports and towards data and laid the foundation of the next big change, moving beyond a short-term view. More on that in my next post! 

 

 

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